In 1983, Shehnaaz Sheikh took up triple talaq at the Supreme Court, based on the discrimination she had suffered. Following Sheikh, Shah Bano Begum, in 1985 also sought judicial redressal at the Supreme Court, demanding alimony after divorce – a claim that was resisted as un-Islamic. Both cases were appeals for Muslim women to be treated with more constitutional equality.
This year, Shayara Bano’s case at the Supreme Court against triple talaq, has all the makings of a turning point in Muslim personal law in India. If a decisive judgement is made in favour of gender justice it will make Muslim women in India more equal, legislatively, when compared to women in other communities, and of course in their own interpersonal spaces.
The issue of triple talaq, however, is quickly being appropriated and warped into a debate about the importance of having a uniform civil code, with the law commission circulating questionnaires about the same. The central government entered the meleé by submitting an affidavit against triple talaq to the Supreme Court, a move that was appreciated till the question of a uniform civil code followed. Opposition by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has been fierce, with the organisation claiming that removing triple talaq would be un-Islamic and consequently submitting counter-affidavits for triple talaq to court. They have also begun a signature campaign, asking Muslim women to sign in favour of triple talaq.
Women’s organisations, such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan have criticised the AIMPLB for perpetuating dated, inaccurate and patriarchal interpretations of the Islamic texts, claiming that triple talaq is not mentioned in the Quran.
Bebaak Collective issued a statement yesterday in solidarity with the several women’s rights groups that have been arguing vehemently against triple talaq in one sitting as a gross violation of women’s rights.
They have pointed out that the Muslim community in India is not a homogenous entity speaking with one voice – there are a multiplicity of voices within the community – and therefore the search for an “authentic” Muslim voice is futile, and can be detrimental to the community like it had been during the Shah Bano case.
The statement alleges that the right-wing government is trying to appropriate the cause under the pretension of “rescuing” Muslim women from their medieval laws. “We do not want our living realities or struggles to be subsumed by any force in the name of rescuing, which works in absolute continuum with the despotic paternalism of majoritarian power.” the report said.
It also emphasises the necessity of ensuring affirmative action for the Muslim community, considering the vulnerability of the community as is attested by several reports over the decades. Furthermore, it asserts a commitment to gender justice and insists that the debate needs to push boundaries outside of triple talaq.
The full text of the statement is reproduced below.
No rerun of history of Shah Bano and Shehnaaz Sheikh: Open letter to support Shayara Bano
- The way Muslim community is diverse within itself there are equally varied voices within the community on the issue of Personal Laws. Therefore, no singular opinion must be treated as the sole voice of the community. Such presumption about the ‘authentic’ Muslim voice shall be fatal for the community as it was during Shah Bano’s time.
- Law Commission’s questionnaire which has come now is a strategic move which will have far reaching ripples. Muslim community is a socially vulnerable community as attested by multiple Reports including that of Rajinder Sachar Commission of 2005 and they require various affirmative actions to better their conditions of living. However, it is also a fact that ‘rescuing’ the ‘vulnerable’ Muslim women seems to form an ideological base for the majoritarian right wing government and its allies. As women’s groups we fight this appropriation of our causes to the State’s ends.
- We and our fellow women’s groups have been working in different states while staying within the community. We have been shared with that in the ongoing debates there is also a simmering rise of insecurity among women’s groups who fear to be targeted for being against the community or religion. Recently, a group of women’s activists were targeted in Govandi, in Mumbai while campaigning against triple talaq in the community. They had altercations with the community ‘leaders’. These stray incidents of quashing down of women’s voices in the community will have far reaching effects for the Muslim women’s leadership itself who has emerged after much struggle.
Endorsed by the following organisations and individuals:1. Forum against oppression of women, Mumbai2. Saheli, Delhi3. Jagori, Delhi4. Zubaan Publishers
Zehen, Mumbai5. Janvikas – Ahmedbad6. Parwaaj – Ahmedbad1. Uma Chakrabati, Historian2. Lata Singh, JNU3. Mary E John, ADU4. Nivedita Menon, JNU5. Papori Bora, JNU6. Kalpana Mehta, Manasi Swasthya Sansthan, Indore7. Shabnam Hasmi8. Anita Ghai9. Shilpa Phadke, Tiss1. Shewli Kumar, Tiss2. Nandini Manjrekar, Tiss3. Zeba Iman, Tiss4. Madhu Mehra, PLD5. Rajarshi Dasgupta, JNU faculty6. Chayanika Shah, LABIA7. Shals Mahajan, LABIA8. Kalpana Kannabiran, lawyer9. Teesta Setalvad, activist10. Soma Marik11. Aruna Burte12. Gabriele Dietrich13. Kamayani Bali Mahabal14. Geeta Seshu, Jounalist, Mumbai15. Arundhuti Dhuru, Humsafar, Lucknow16. Japleen Pasricha, Feminism in India17. Sana Contactor18. Lena Ganesh19. Priya Krishnamoorthy20. Nisha Biswas, Kolkata21. Sunidhi Naskar22. Dyuti Ailawadi23. Rohini Hensman24. Adv.Jaya Sagade, Pune25. Aswathy Raveendran, Mumbai26. Pyoli Swatija27. Madhvi Shivaprasad28. Riddhima Sharma, FemPositive29. Rahul Roy30. Anand Pawar – pune31. Snehja Rupwate32. Heba Ahmed33. Aravind Unni34. Amrita Howlader35. Vasant Damle36. Pushpendra Kumar37. Lalita Ramdas38. Vandana Khare39. Vaishali Gaikwad40. Shikha Pandey41. Rossi Dsouza42. Sidrah Patel43. Anshumala Singh44. Yam India45. Sakira Shahin46. Kaveri Dadhich47. Sachin Jain48. Moideen Mathari49. Amrita De50. Neetika Vishwanath51. Brototi Dutta52. Aiman J Khan53. Shabana Ansari54. Reena Khatoon55. Rajesh Umadevi Srinivas56. Vasanti Damle57. Shiva Sharma, AALI58. Yasho Salve59. Rukmini Sen60. Deepa Pawar61. Kabi S62. Kanta Singh63. Salma Bawazir64. Nischint Hora65. Nootan Malvi66. Satnam Kaur67. Dhruv Redkar68. Sandhya Srinivasan69. Sohini Soaib70. Avinash Kumar71. Ketki Ranade,Tiss72. Sangeeta Chatterjee,73. Sehba Imam74. Kalyani Menon75. Tarique Shafique